Online gallery of Japanese contemporary art

What made Yanobe create “Torayan”

"Torayan" by Kenji Yanobe

“Torayan” by Kenji Yanobe

The 1970 Osaka Expo, with its motto “Human Progress and Harmony” was the beacon for futuristic inventions of the time. Many artists were captivated by this optimistic creative energy, but Yanobe Kenji who visited the festival after it had ended and was already on its way to being dismantled, saw it as a foreboding representation of the end of the future. Every since this traumatic experience, he went on to create works that appropriated the visual language of these dinosaur bones of the future.


Although his work is very visually alluring, all of his choices are pragmatically dictated and streamlined to create machines of survival; survival of the end of the world. Some facets and gizmos on these machines included Geiger counters, fresh-air giving plants and readymade meals. He counterpoints these semi-delusional tendencies by placing them in historical contexts. An example of this is the suit he made for himself to explore the still dangerously radioactive city of Chernobyl.

Prior to this journey, YANOBE had been mainly interested in his megalomaniacal mission of personal survival, but this journey marked a turning point for him in which he turned to the idea of revival. Many of these revival works were geared towards children and showing them the destructive as well as the creative potentials and histories of large scale technological endeavors.

Giant Torayan, a gigantic robot that looms high above the viewer, can be given orders via a device that only responds to children’s voices. It will dance, sing and even breathe fire, playfully allowing the child to experience the responsibilities and excitement of controlling machines.

Other subtle and soft integrations of weighty issues is found in Cinema in the Woods, which is a quaint but eerily atomic proof cinema viewing hut that shows movies about techniques to survive atomic attacks. This film references scenes from Duck and Cover, an ridiculously futile instructional video on how to survive atomic attacks.

YANOBE’s work deals with these heavy issues with a quirky mix of pragmatism and fantasy to help us face them.

"Cinema in the Woods" installation view, 2004

“Cinema in the Woods” installation view, 2004

"Kindergarten" Installation view, 2005

“Kindergarten” Installation view, 2005

-Kenji Yanobe Biography
1965 Born in Osaka
1989 Graduated from Kyoto City University of Arts, Kyoto
1991 M.A., Kyoto City University of Arts, Kyoto

Selected Solo Exhibition

2009 Temporary Exhibition “Kenji Yanobe – Ulrta,” Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, Aichi, Japan
2007 Kenji Yanobe “The World of Torayan,” Kirishima Open Air Museum, Kagoshima, Japan
2005 “Kindergarten,” Tokyota Municipal Museum of Art, Aichi, Japan
2004 “City of Children,” Workshop, 21st Centery Museum of Art Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan
2003 “Megalomania”, The?National Museum of Art Osaka, Osaka, Japan
“Atom Suit – Survival, Revival,” Kita Kyushu Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan
2001 “Viva Riva Project – Hair Haire-,”??Rontgen Kunstram, Tokyo, Japan
1999 “Luna Project-Emargency Shoppers-,”?The Museum of Contemporary Art Nagoya, Aichi,Japan
1998 “Last Amusement Park of the World,” Kirin Art Space Harajuku, Tokyo/ Kirin Plaza Osaka, Osaka/ Mitsubishi-jisho Artium, Fukuoka/ Last Film Theatre of the World, Rontgen Kunstraum, Tokyo
Center on Contemporary Art in Seattle, Seattle
1997 Center for the Arts Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco (Cat.) University Art Museum, Santa Barbara CAN Centre d’Art Neuchatel, NeuchatelArs Futura, Zurich
1991 “An Eccentric Life of Kenji Yanobe,” Kirin Plaza Osaka, Osaka

Group Exhibition

2009 TWIST and SHOUT: Contemporary Art from Japan,” Bangkok Art and Culture Centre
Aqua Metropolis 2009,” Osaka
Roppongi Art night,” Roppongi hills
2008 “Shelter x Survival Alternative Homes For Fantastic Lives,” Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima
“Heavy Light: Recent Photography and Video from Japan,” International Center of Photography, New York
“Manga! Japanese Pictures,” Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
2007 “The Power of Expression, Japan,” The NationalArt Center, Tokyo
“Vital Signs: Reality of nine contemporary artists,” Yokosuka Museum of Art, Kanagawa (Cat.)
“Beautiful New World: Contemporary Visual Culture from Japan,” Beijing, Guangzhou (Cat.)
2006 “Art and Object,” Affinity of the Jomon and the Contemporary Aomori Museum of Art, Aomori
“Nippon vs Fine Art -Striving for Identity in the Context of Western Art,” Osaka City Museum of Modern Art, Osaka
2005 “Little Boy,” Japan Society, New York
2004 “Roppongi Crossing,” Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (Cat.)
“A Fripon, Fripon et Demi,” Collection Lambert of Avignon, Avignon
“Autonom ist noch nicht einmal der mono,” ACC Galerie Weimar, Weimar
“Why Not Live for Art?, Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery,” Tokyo
“Young Artists from China, Japan, and Korea,” National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea (~2005)
2003 “Expose 2002,” Aka-Renga Warehouse, Kanagawa (Cat.) “Armour,” Fort Asperen, Holland (Cat.)
2002 “The Uncanny: Experiments in Cyborg Culture,” Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada (Cat.)
“Atitude 2002,” Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto (Cat.) “Expose 2002,” Kirin Plaza Osaka, Osaka (Cat.)
2001 “My Reality: -Contemporary Art and the Culture of Japanese Animation-,” Des Moines Art Center, Iowa / The Brooklyn Museum of Art / Tampa Museum of Art / Chicago Culture Center / Akron Art Museum of Art / The Huntsvill Museum of Art / Des Moines Art Center & Independent Curators International, NY (Touring exhibition in USA 2001-2004) (Cat.)
“Neo Tokyo,” Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (Cat.)
“SENTATSUMIRAI Futuro Anteriore – Arte Attuale Dal Giappone,” Centro Per L’Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato (Cat.)
2000 “Views,” Stadt Galerie Saarbrücken, Germany / Stadtische Galerie Erlangen, Germany / Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden, The Netherlands (Cat.)
“Learning in and through Art,” Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima (Cat.)
“GENDAI: Japanese Contemporary Art -Between the Body and Space-,” Centrum Sztuki Wspólczesnej, Zamek Ujazdowski, Wspólczesnej (Cat.)
“The Gift of Hope,” Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Tokyo (-2001) (Cat.)
“Brian Griffiths and Kenji Yanobe,” The Curve, Barbican Centre, London (-2001)
1998 “Co-habitation with the Evolving Robots,” NTT InterCommunication Center (ICC), Tokyo (Cat.)
“Signs of Life,” Melbourne International Biennial 1999, City of Melbourne, Australia (Cat.)
“In de ban de ring,” Provincial Centrum voor Beeldende Kunsten-Beginhof Museum, Hasselt
“Belgium Festival Atlantico’99,” Lisbon, Portugal (Cat.) “Ground Zero Japan,” Art Tower Mito, Ibaragi (~2000) (Cat.)
1997 “The Nouméa Biennial of Contemporary Arts,” Ecole d’Art Nouméa, Nouvelle-Calédonie (Cat.)
“Et maintenant!,” Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris (Cat.)
“Technotherapy,” Osaka Central Public Hall,
“Osaka Awesome,” International Children’s Festival, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth (Cat.)
1996 “Discord. Sabotage of realities,” Kunstverein and Kunsthaus Hamburg, Hamburg (Cat.)
“Art Embodied,” MAC Museum of Contemporary Art, Marseille (Cat.)
“Moving Art in the 20th Century,” The Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama (Cat.)
“Traffic,” CAPC Museum of Contemporary Art, Bordeaux (Cat.)
“1996 Transit – 60 artists born after the 60’s” / Collection of Fonds National d’Art (Cat.) Objectif Lune, CAN Centre d’Art Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel Contemporain, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris (Cat.)
1995 “After Hiroshima,” City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima (Cat.) “That Figures,” Galerie d’Endt, Amsterdam
“Japan Today,” Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark / Kunstnernes Hus, Norway / Wäinö Aaltonen Museo, Finland / Liljevalchs Konsthall, Sweden / Österreichisches Museum Für Angewandte Kunst, Wien (-1997) (Cat.)
1994 “Platons Höhle,” Karl Ernst Osthaus Museum Hagen, Hagen (Cat.)Nachtbogen ’94, O Zwei Galerie, Berlin
1993 “Aspect of Time,” Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art, Fukuoka (Cat.)
International Biennale in Nagoya ARTEC ’93, Nagoya City Art Museum, Aichi (Cat.)
1992 “Anomaly,” Röntgen Kunst Institut, Tokyo (Cat.)
“Artnow ’92,” Museum of Modern Art, Hyogo (Cat.)
Installation view of "Phantasmagoria," 2007

Installation view of “Phantasmagoria,” 2007

Public Collection
FNAC Fond National d’Art Contemporain in France
FRAC Provance-Alpes-Cóte-D’Azur
University Art Museum, Santa Barbara
Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Bologna
Contro Per L’Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato
-In Japan
Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art
Kyoto City
Fukuroi City
Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art
21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto
The National Museum of Art, Osaka
Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, Aichi
Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo